Al Ahli’s basketball team assured themselves of at least one knockout match at the Asia Champions Cup on Monday by beating Malaysia Dragons 81-69 in their third group game at the tournament in Chenzhou, China.
Ahli, who won their first match on Saturday against Kazakhstan’s Barsy Atyrau before losing on Sunday to China’s Xinjiang Flying Tigers, got out to a surprising five-point first quarter deficit. The Dubai club steadied from there, however, going into half-time level with the Dragons 38-38 before building a seven-poing lead going into the fourth-quarter, which was never challenged.
Sam Young, a veteran of parts of four NBA seasons from 2009-13, continued to be their leading light. The 31-year-old swing man scored 32 points on 10-of-24 shooting with seven rebounds. Young opened the tournament with 50 points in the win against the Kazakhstan club.
Emirati Qais Omar also continued to stand out at the tournament, going 8-of-18 for 16 points with 17 rebounds. Another Emirati, Mohammed Al Ajmani, scored 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting. Ahli’s big man stalwart Cheikh Samb, a Senagalese former NBA player, did not play.
More Al Ahli basketball
• Game 1: Ahli start with big win over Atyrau
• Game 2: Ahli suffer setback against Xinjiang
The Fiba report called the effort "the exact kind of character-building win that Al Ahli needed".
With two wins and a loss in their three of four group-round matches, Ahli have clinched a place in Friday’s quarter-finals. They play their final group match on Tuesday against Iraq’s Al Shorta.
Malaysia were led by Americans Joel Wright, with 21 points, and Skylar Spencer, with 16. Spencer also pulled down 21 rebounds and shot 8-of-11 in a team-leading performance.
The Southeast Asian champion Dragons now have two losses from two played.
China’s Flying Tigers play Atyrau later on Monday, overwhelmingly likely to stay perfect with a third win. Al Shorta play Atyrau in their final group game on Wednesday, and with a win their encounter on Tuesday with Ahli probably would determine second place in Group B. Malaysia and Atyrau play on Tuesday in what will likely determine fourth/fifth place.
In the other group Iran’s Petrochimi and Lebanon’s Al Riyadi both have two wins from two played. They will tussle for group supremacy on Wednesday.
Four of the five teams in each group advance to the quarter-finals. The semi-finals are on Saturday and the final is Sunday. This year’s tournament is the first staging since 2013.
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